From Surviving the Bosnian War to Making $500M in Real Estate Sales

From Surviving the Bosnian War

To Making $500M in Real Estate Sales

You might recognize her from her appearances on Fox News or CNBC’s Secret Lives of the Super Rich, but before it all, Senada Adzem was caught right in the middle of one of the world’s cruelest wars since WWII.

When in 1991, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia began to fall apart, the divisions between neighbour states became apparent and war erupted, resulting in disaster for the Bosniak people. Senada Adzem was just a teenager when war broke out, acting as an interpreter for the U.N.

“It was a bit of a crazy position, and very dangerous of course because you had to go to different warzones,” 

-Senada Adzem

Wartime Sarajevo. Photo courtesy of Balkan Insights

It would ultimately be her ticket out of war-invested Sarajevo as her U.N contacts managed to help her into a U.S business scholarship. “It was really my work with the UN that led me to meet the right people to help me get to the U.S,” she remembers. Upon receiving the scholarship she left her country to journey to America, leaving her mother, father and brother behind. Her father would ultimately pass away from war wounds sustained in the fighting. 

An immigrant, with $300 in her pocket, Adzem would really learn what it was like to  struggle and acclimate to the very different American culture in comparison with the familiarity of wartime Eastern-Europe. Landing in Iowa, she remained there for the duration of her collegiate career before moving to New York City. And in-keeping with traditional immigrant success stories, Adzem would face adversity and job trouble in the big city, only to come out on top. Having strove for the finance sector, it ultimately wasn’t meant to be. The venture capitalism ideal wasn’t much like the reality.

Senada Adzem

She was in the depths of dissatisfaction with her financial career when an opportunity in the real estate market presented itself. Her friend needed assistance on a marketing valuation in Florida and Adzem was only too willing to help and travel down to a sunnier clime. Her work on this job led to an offer from Trump International, and Adzem was lured down to Florida by the lifestyle, the beach, and the simple pleasure of driving a car.

“Transform your fears and make them fuel whatever you want to accomplish.”

-Senada Adzem

“Working on real estate with Trump International – it was quite demanding, and working with pre-development was very difficult. You have to design a project, so you’re marketing and selling a dream. It doesn’t really exist,” Adzem says, recalling her first months within the president’s empire as very challenging, but extremely rewarding. “The more I spent time marketing and sales the more I realized that was what I loved doing. That was my passion.” 

Her first contract with the company was worth a whopping $6.5million.

“It wasn’t about the money but more like the rush – being able to do business at such a high level, dealing with properties in the millions of dollars,” Adzem says, and indeed, she took very fast to the flourishing south-Floridian market. It wasn’t easy, however. She continues, “honestly, it was really really tough, it took a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Florida. I had to build my name from scratch.”

However – gauging people’s emotions and understanding their needs/wants, and a solid working-class background made it a natural assimilation for Adzem. “What I believe is that if you have great work ethic (which you have to have coming from New York)  and you understand the luxury market, and you understand what people want [you will succeed].” She continues, “that came very easily to me, only because coming from a war, coming from the background that I do, I pride myself on being who I am.”

“Real Estate is very emotional,” Adzem postulates, “regardless of the level of wealth, if you’re good at managing people’s emotions, if you’re good at getting to the point where they trust you, I think you can be very successful.” In order to achieve the level of success she has since Trump international, she has a few steadfast rules, one of those being to keep a very small team. 

Adzem now leads a team of five and is the face of Douglas Elliman real estate in South Florida. Amongst the five, they speak ten languages, and work well because they can cater intimately to clients needs and lifestyle specifications. “It’s a 24/7 job,” she admits unabashedly, but make no mistake, there is time for realtor to get into the throws of another invigorating and extremely challenging outlet as well – Mixed Martial Arts. “You have to be able to find time to do things separate from work,” she asserts, laughing, “I volunteer with a couple of charities, but when it comes to an actual hobby, you’ll find me kicking some ass.”

It’s safe to say that Adzem, following her journey from war-torn Bosnia has made the very most of her life in the U.S. And in awe of this, SWAAY asked her what she would say to those women facing an uphill climb or battle to get where they want to go or achieve their goals. Adzem responded, “You have to find a way to turn your pain into power. It’s very easy to feel like a victim, even if you are a victim, but it takes courage to look at it from the perspective of a winner.” Keep up with Adzem’s crazy lifestyle over on her twitter, and gorge on the wealth of incredible homes to gets to sell every day.

Amy Corcoran

Head of Content at SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

  1. Senada, I come to USA 1994 from Bosnian War too I feel your pain, struggle ups and downs but I didn’t speak any English but little by little i also built my career and business slowly. I wish you all the best since we are hard working people and we adjust to ups and downs. It doesn’t matter where you came from it’s matter to get up on every fall that comes along. Puno uspijeha ti želim

  2. I love the following quotes by Senada: “Transform your fears and make them fuel whatever you want to accomplish” AND “You have to find a way to turn your pain into power. It’s very easy to feel like a victim, even if you are a victim, but it takes courage to look at it from the perspective of a winner.” Many of us who have experienced the war and were fortunate enough to escape can relate:

    1. Seriously that’s your question! You understand that having children is a personal choice and you obviously lack common decency and decorum. Seems to be lost on many these days.
      You could be hurting someone with that question what If a person that you have asked, has struggled to have them for years. (Infertility Ivf etc)

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